France's yellow vest protesters march despite bans, injuries


PARIS (AP) — Yellow vest activists protested across France on Saturday to support an activist injured last week in a confrontation with police and to show that they remain mobilized against the government’s economic policies.

The demonstrators were undeterred by police protest bans or repeated injuries in 20 weeks of demonstrations. So they were out marching again in Paris, Bordeaux and other cities to keep pressing President Emmanuel Macron to do more to help France’s struggling working classes or to step down altogether.

They’re also showing solidarity with Genevieve Legay, a 73-year-old anti-globalization activist who suffered a head injury in the southern city of Nice last weekend. The Nice prosecutor said a police officer pushed her down.

“We are all Genevieve!” read an online appeal for Saturday’s protests.

Thousands of yellow vests marched peacefully in the streets of Paris, from north of the city center through the Left Bank to the Trocadero plaza near the Eiffel Tower. Some waved a rainbow flag that read “Peace,” same as the one that Legay was carrying in last week’s protest.

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The French capital was placed under high security and protests were banned around the grand Champs-Elysees avenue, the scene of past yellow vest riots. Paris police said 32 people were detained and 21 fined for taking part in an unauthorized protest.

In the southern French town of Avignon, brief scuffles broke out as police forced protesters out of the narrow streets of the medieval city center.

In Bordeaux, in the southwest, French police used tear gas after some protesters set fire to debris from a construction site and tried to force their way past security barriers. Protests were banned from the city center, where violence has often erupted in previous weeks.

Audrey Bayart, who came from northern France for the Paris protest, said Legay’s case shows the government’s contempt toward protesters, especially after Macron told a newspaper that the elderly woman should have had the “wisdom” not to join the Nice protest.

“After a while, you have to respect people and not tell them ‘You are fragile and you stay at home,'” she said. “Everybody has things to say, why are we trying to shut them up? That is not democracy.”

The yellow vest movement for economic justice has appeared to lose support in recent weeks, drawing significantly smaller crowds than at its beginning in November, when hundreds of thousands of people mobilized across France, initially to oppose fuel tax hikes, before expanding into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies.

The French government is expected to announce next month a new batch of measures as a result of a “great debate” launched by Macron so ordinary French people could express their views on key issues.

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